How to Conduct a Health & Safety Audit in the Workplace
In this safety review the experts at Legionella Control International provide practical guidance on how to conduct a health and safety audit in the workplace.
The article explains what a safety audit is and the benefits it can deliver, it outlines the various stages involved and the different approaches to selecting an auditor. It concludes by discussing the audit report itself and how the recommendations can be used to create solid safety management process that will keep staff, customers and others safe.
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Benefits of health and safety auditing
People often think of an audit as a review of the financial position of a company or business. While that’s true, some businesses may also benefit from a health and safety audit. As the name suggests, this type of audit focuses on the strength of the health and safety approach taken by the relevant business. It also highlights any areas where changes should be made to improve safety and this could include the management of asbestos, legionella and water safety, dust and air quality etc.
It’s important to remember that there is no legal requirement for any business to conduct an audit of this nature. However, it does help improve health and safety in any business by highlighting gaps that require attention. It also brings other benefits, such as increased confidence in workers and those who use the business. If some aspect of health and safety is missed – something that could be picked up during an audit – it could cause an accident or illness. This in turn may lead to a fine from the local safety regulators, in the UK this would be the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). In serious cases, it may also lead to a prosecution and personal injury litigation. Aside from jeopardising the health of those working for or otherwise visiting the business, it could jeopardise the whole future of the business.
Decide whether to use an internal or external safety auditor
Deciding whether to carry out an internal audit yourself or engaging the services of an external safety auditor is the first step. An internal audit is conducted by someone inside the business. This should always be someone adequately trained and experienced, with enough knowledge to know how to conduct the audit.
The alternative is to choose an external audit, performed by someone who is experienced, and trained in this role. By far this is the preferred route as an external expert will be impartial and will be able to view the business and its health and safety approach and policies with fresh eyes. They are also more likely to be highly qualified, as they will specialise in this role. It’s also often much easier to spot potential health and safety risks that those working there daily may not see in the same way. That’s why an external health and safety audit is by far the preferred route.
How to start a safety audit: Assess documents, paperwork, and procedures
To start, you should plan your audit approach, setting out what documents, processes and procedures you will need to review. These should include the health and safety policy for the business, along with all risk assessments for all parts of the business. Other paperwork may cover various safety management aspects including staff competence and safety training programs attended by various workers. Essentially, all documents and paperwork relating to any health and safety processes, risks, accidents and near-misses, and other incidents that may be relevant to the business and premises.
If a health and safety audit has taken place in the past, a record of this should also be present. This may highlight what has already been done, and whether anything has been missed while considering how thorough the approach is. For instance, an audit can and should alert those in the business to any potential risks that have been missed or neglected in the past. The audit should also suggest steps for rectifying this situation. A previous audit can therefore be a good starting point for a fresh one. If nothing was done to modify the approach to health and safety before, why was this? Can other steps be taken this time?
Auditing the health and safety management processes
Once these documents are available and a clearer picture has begun to emerge of the health and safety approach taken by the business, it’s possible to begin to assess various elements to see how they are working to keep people safe. Reviewing the businesses health and safety policy is vital here, as the auditor can consider whether there are any gaps, and how well the policy is working.
Other areas to cover include the approach to staff training and competence. Everyone working at the business should be fully aware of health and safety, their responsibilities in this area, and how and what they can do to reduce risks while working. The scope will obviously vary according to the type of business and industry sector, hence why using an external assessor is often easier and covers far more ground.
Carrying out a full safety inspection of the site
Another key process included in the health and safety audit simply involves walking through every area of the building(s) used by the business. This may take some time, as it would cover health and safety in each area and whether it is up to scratch.
Typical questions to ask and areas of interest may include:
- Signage – is it available, clear, and understandable?
- Equipment – is it safe to use for those qualified to use it?
- Access – can anyone enter all areas or are there restrictions for safety purposes?
- Safety equipment and clothing or PPE – can those who need such equipment or clothing access it, and are they trained in using or wearing it?
- Records of regular inspections and testing – is there an easily accessible and up to date logbook where all this information recorded?
These are just a few examples, but they show how important a walkthrough is as part of a health and safety audit.
Accessing health and safety records
Finally, while we have mentioned the importance of paperwork and records, it is also vital that those responsible for health and safety processes know how to access these records. Is everyone on site aware of the health and safety policy and what it means? Are they aware of their roles and responsibilities?
Gathering information, audit reports and taking remedial actions
As you can see, a health and safety audit can take some time to complete. However, it is certainly time well spent. Once the complete picture is known, the safety auditor will be able to identify any areas that require attention. This may simply mean making employees more aware of certain aspects of health and safety. Conversely, it may require significant changes in one or more areas to be sure the safety and wellbeing of those working there is maintained.
As such, the auditor can recommend how certain risks can be limited or removed. They may suggest more training for certain workers. Actions may include something simple such as improving signage in certain areas. It may be more complex, such as adding safety measures to prevent some workers from accessing equipment they’re not trained to use. There should also be deadlines for all such tasks to be completed and these would usually reflect the level of risk.
Once the process is complete, the full health and safety audit should be published. While the entire workforce does not need to read it, those with certain levels of responsibility should have access to it.
A safety audit is a powerful tool. It may not be necessary by law, but there’s no doubt that any business can benefit – and become safer still – with a comprehensive health and safety audit in place.
Experienced legionella and water safety audit specialists
Legionella Control International are experienced water safety auditors providing specialist support to those responsible for the control of waterborne pathogens including legionella and pseudomonas in the workplace. We help businesses protect their workers, customers and others from the dangers caused by water systems, helping them to meet their health and safety compliance obligations in this specialist area.
We are experienced water safety specialists and deliver full compliance audits and risk assessments for legionella, pseudomonas and other waterborne pathogens. We also offer water quality testing, City & Guilds training and other health and safety risk management services that help keep staff and others safe.
If you would like to speak with one of our water safety auditors about improving your risk management processes call us today on 0330 223 36 86 or contact us here …